Lying for sex—old sin means jail time in Israel

In this photo taken on Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Palestinian Saber Qashor pauses in the garden of his house in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM—Lying for sex. It happens all the time.

Yet a married Palestinian man has been ordered jailed for 18 months for having sex with an Israeli woman after giving her the impression he too was Jewish, as well as single and interested in a relationship.

His conviction of “rape by deception” has drawn charges of racism and questions about whether courts should be delving into this fraught topic.

Saber Qashor, a 30-year-old father of two, says he was approached by the woman in September 2008 on a downtown Jerusalem street where he had parked his motorcycle, and introduced himself as “Dudu,” a common Israeli Jewish nickname.

Within half an hour they were having sex in a Jerusalem office building stairwell.

After nearly two months, he was arrested and told the woman had accused him of forcible rape. Last week, he was sentenced to prison and fined 10,000 shekels ($2,500) for “rape by deception,” an offense that may be unique to the Israeli legal code.

Rape by deception was written into the law to protect women from sexual predators, but some argue that Qashor’s act doesn’t count—that he was simply doing what so many men and women do for sex.

“It seems to me a dangerous decision,” said Professor Zeev Segal, legal analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “The law should not enter into the delicate domain of relations between men and women.”

Having already spent nearly two years under house arrest, Qashor remains there while he pursues an appeal that his lawyer says may reach the Supreme Court this week.

The original indictment claimed forcible rape but the Jerusalem District Court accepted the sex was consensual and a plea bargain reduced the charge to “rape by deception.”

“If she hadn’t thought the accused was a single Jewish man interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” Judge Zvi Segal wrote in sentencing Qashor. The court must protect the public from “sophisticated and slick-tongued criminals who would lead innocent victims astray, at the unbearable price of the sanctity of their bodies and souls.”

While Qashor has readily given his version of events to the media, almost nothing is known about the plaintiff, identified only as M.T. All Israeli rape cases are heard behind closed doors, and court records are sealed. Qashor said the woman was in her 20s, but there was no independent confirmation.

Given the animosity between Jews and Arabs in Israel, Qashor’s conviction elicited accusations of racism in newspaper columns and on talk shows.

“This is a case where it is obviously not rape but fraud, and it smells of racism,” said historian and commentator Tom Segev. “It’s a real ugly example of how basic values in this country are deteriorating.”

Speaking to The Associated Press from his home in east Jerusalem, the sector captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, Qashor denied telling the woman he was Jewish, saying the Hebrew name he gave her was a nickname from childhood—a practice not unheard of among Palestinians. He speaks fluent Hebrew with no Arabic accent.

“I said my name is Dudu and she asked if I was married or single and I said single,” said Qashor. “I didn’t tell her I was a Jew.”  He said he has kept the details from his wife and that his marriage is surviving.

The law has existed for decades, but legal experts recall it only being invoked once—in 2008 to convict a Jewish man who impersonated a Housing Ministry official to solicit sex with financially stricken women by promising to get them public housing and increased government payouts.

Dana Pugach, head of the Noga Legal Center for crime victims, suggests the law sometimes takes things too far.

“I think that women still need protection,” she said. “But I do think criminal law shouldn’t interfere in every case. I think white lies should be permitted in a way. Lying, unfortunately, is a natural part of human relationships and not every lie can be indicted. But defining the limits would be difficult. Logic should be applied to every case.”

In this case, however, the complaint was taken seriously because the woman initially accused Qashor of forcible rape, “Not because he was an Arab, not because he pretended to be Jewish, but because she complained about being raped,” she said.

No other country is known to have a law like Israel’s.

In Spain, rape by deception is a crime only where the person involved is under 16. A bill before the Massachusetts state legislature would target those who employ deceit—and not just physical force—to engage in sex. But it’s aimed at sociopaths, not people who falsely boast of being doctors or sports stars, says its sponsor, Rep. Peter Koutoujian.

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